Looking to learn about the emerald tree boa? You're in the right place. Here, you'll learn all about these beautiful snakes; including size, color-changing, diet, and much more!
Emerald tree boas are some of the most visually striking animals on the planet. From their vivid colors to their dramatic, serpentine coils around tree branches, they're the kind of snake that grabs your attention and holds it.
But what lies beneath the surface of emerald tree boas? What truths can you uncover if you're willing to look past the glittering scales and fangs?
Here are just a few emerald tree boa facts that will help you gain a deeper understanding of these incredible creatures.
To kick things off, let's learn about the two different kinds of emerald tree boas.
Ultimate guide to emerald tree boa: 2 species
1. Corallus caninus
- Latin name: Corallus caninus
- Where they are found: Guiana Shield (Guyana, French Guiana, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname)
- Size: 4 – 6 feet
- Diet: Rodents, lizards, frogs, monkeys, bats
What’s unique about the Corallus caninus emerald tree boa?
Also known as the “Guiana Shield emerald tree boa,” Corallus caninus sticks to the regions of northern South America.
It has a smaller body and slightly different markings than the other breed of emerald tree boa, and some people have suggested that it's less docile.
What does the Corallus caninus emerald tree boa look like?
Corallus caninus has a bright green body with horizontal white patterns on its scales. These markings have been called stripes, zig-zags, and even lightning bolts.
They're present on both species, but Corallus batesii has a vertical white line running down its back to distinguish it, and it's also physically longer.
2. Corallus batesii
- Latin name: Corallus batesii
- Where they are found: Amazon River basin (Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador)
- Size: 7 – 9 feet
- Diet: Rodents, lizards, frogs, monkeys, bats
What’s unique about the Corallus batesii emerald tree boa?
Also known as the “Amazon Basin emerald tree boa,” Corallus batesii is exclusive to the Amazon River. While it doesn't live in the water, it's present in the surrounding forests and wetlands.
It has different markings than its cousin, and its Latin name comes from a different explorer.
What does the Corallus batesii emerald tree boa look like?
Emerald tree boas might look identical at first glance, but when you peer a little closer, the differences become obvious.
The biggest one is size: Corallus batesii can grow to nine feet long while Corallus caninus tops out at six feet long.
Corallus batesii also has a vertical stripe running along its back that distinguishes it from the horizontal lightning bolts of Corallus caninus.
46 Amazing Emerald Tree Boa Facts
1. What does the emerald tree boa look like?
Emerald tree boas are long, skinny snakes with vivid colors. Surprisingly, they aren't always emerald; they can come in different shades of green, yellow, lime and olive. Rare specimens are even blue-green.
The most distinctive feature of the emerald tree boa is the series of white markings on its scales.
Both breeds have these horizontal lines, and they've been described as everything from stripes to lightning bolts. Corallus batesii also boasts a vertical white line that runs along its back connecting the other markings.
Another thing that you'll notice about the emerald tree boa is that it has very prominent front teeth.
They're sometimes called “fangs,” but that's technically incorrect. Fangs are connected to venom glands, and emerald tree boas are nonvenomous.
2. Can emerald tree boas change color?
Yes and no. Emerald tree boas can't change color on command; they aren't chameleons.
However, juveniles are red and orange when they're born, and it takes them the better part of a year to brighten to their trademark green and yellow.
In a way, emerald tree boas do change color. It's just a part of growing up rather than something that they can trigger at will.
3. How big is an emerald tree boa?
- The Guiana Shield emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus) measures between 4 – 6 feet.
- The Amazon Basin emerald tree boa (Corallus batesii) is usually between 7 – 9 feet.
4. How much does an emerald tree boa weigh?
Like many animals, emerald tree boas are sexually dimorphic. However, they're unique in the sense that it's the females who are bigger than the males.
The ladies can weigh up to four pounds while the guys max out at two or three pounds.
5. What is the emerald tree boas Latin name?
The Guiana Shield emerald tree boa is known as Corallus batesii. The first part of its name refers to the “coral” of its scales, and the second part is meant to honor a famous field biologist named Henry Walter Bates.
The Amazon Basin emerald tree boa is called Corallus caninus. The first part is another reference to coral, and the second part is a comparison to dogs.
Where do dogs come in? It's a funny story, actually. When the species was first discovered by a man named Carlos Linnaeus, he saw a dog-like face in its wide, flat snout and pointed canines.
He decided to give it a Latin name that basically meant “coral dog.” He wasn't very subtle!
6. Do emerald tree boas really live in trees?
Yes. Emerald tree boas are considered an arboreal species because they spend most of their time slithering through tree canopies.
Their green coloring isn't just for show, either; it acts as their first line of defense against predators by camouflaging them among the leaves.
Another fun fact about emerald tree boas is that they have prehensile tails that can grasp things. This doesn't apply to all snakes: some of them only use their tails for balance, locomotion or noise-making.
With emerald tree boas, however, their tail is an appendage that can be wrapped around everything from tree trunks to live prey. They're a bit like monkeys in the sense that their tail is a tool.
7. Are emerald tree boas nocturnal?
In the wild, emerald tree boas are nocturnal.
They have keen senses that allow them to hunt even in low levels of visibility, and if they're awake during the day at all, it's to sunbathe as a means of thermoregulation. They aren't actively moving around in the daytime.
Captive emerald tree boas are a different story.
Since their environment is defined by the heat and light of their enclosure, they can be trained to be diurnal. They won't know the difference.
8. How many species of emerald tree boa are there?
There are two species of emerald tree boa. They used to be classified as a single species until researchers decided that there were enough variations between them to qualify as distinct breeds.
This reclassification only happened in 2009, so if you're reading older books or blogs about the emerald tree boa, you might be taking in outdated information!
9. What is the difference between an emerald tree boa and a green tree python?
Emerald tree boas and green tree pythons have a lot in common. They're green snakes with white markings that live in trees, so you can be forgiven for squinting at pictures and wondering if you're seeing double.
Squint a little harder, however, and the differences will become apparent:
- Green tree pythons have white dots instead of zig-zags. They're usually in a straight line down the back and they're small and disjointed rather than running in a thick line.
- Green tree pythons are pythons in the Pythonidae family.
- Emerald tree boas are boa constrictors in the Boidae family.
- Wild green tree pythons are only found in Australia and Asia.
- Wild emerald tree boas are only found in South America.
10. Are there any albino emerald tree boas?
Not that we know of. There are albino green tree pythons, and they're sometimes mistaken for emerald tree boas because of their markings. But, there's never been a documented case of a white-skinned emerald tree boa.
There has been a blue one, however. It's part of a natural history exhibit at the University of Edinburgh. This particular specimen has a blue body, yellow belly, and white lightning bolts.
11. Are emerald tree boas aggressive?
It depends. In captivity, emerald tree boas can be quite calm. Their favorite pastime is usually dozing on a branch or basking under a heat lamp.
Even if you wind up with a prickly pet, they can often be trained to accept a minimal amount of human handling.
Wild emerald tree boas are a different story. They're solitary creatures by nature, so they don't like socializing with others, and they attack with deadly ambushes that their prey never sees coming. There are lots of stories about hunters trying to capture a wild emerald and having a hard time with it.
For some reason, Corallus caninus is known to be more aggressive than Corallus batesii. No one really knows why. It's just an observation that breeders and naturalists have made over the years.
12. Do emerald tree boas have fangs?
To be completely scientific, emerald tree boas don't have fangs. “Fangs” are defined as pointed teeth that are connected to venom glands, and emerald tree boas are nonvenomous.
Of course, most people don't bother to make this distinction. Emerald tree boas have dagger-like teeth that jut out from their mouths and sink into the necks of their victims. That's fangy enough for most folks.
13. Do emerald tree boas bite?
Yes. It's true that emerald tree boas use their teeth to clamp down on their prey in swift, sudden strikes.
However, emerald tree boas don't kill with their teeth. There's no slicing, dicing, mauling or chewing. They're boa constrictors, and one of the defining characteristics of the species is the fact that they constrict. They wrap around their prey and squeeze them to death.
To put it another way, their teeth are skewers that they use to stun or pin an animal in place, but the actual kill is made through constriction.
14. Do emerald tree boas die after biting their prey?
Emerald tree boas can usually bite into their prey without hurting themselves. They'd live pretty short lives if they died after their first meal!
The exception is when something goes wrong with the bite. If the angle is off, for example, or if they're struggling against a more powerful foe, a couple of things can happen:
- They can snag a tooth on the bite surface. This isn't always or immediately fatal, but it can lead to an infection that causes death later.
- They can separate their spine with the force of their bite. This can happen when they make a deep bite into a person or animal that jerks away with a lot of power. Tragically, it's not unheard of among pet owners receiving an accidental bite.
15. How do emerald tree boas sense their prey?
In addition to having great eyesight that can detect small slivers of motion in complete darkness, emerald tree boas are also in possession of thermal receptor pits.
These are small glands on their face that basically function as heat-seeking sensors. A lot of boa constrictors have them, but emerald tree boas are equipped with an even greater number than usual.
16. Are emerald tree boas dangerous?
The threat presented by an emerald tree boa will depend on several different factors:
- Were they bred in captivity or caught in the wild?
- Are they accustomed to being handled by humans?
- Are they in good health, or are they sick, hurt or being kept in bad conditions that would make them more likely to lash out?
Another thing to consider is how well that the emerald tree boa has been socialized. They can be trained to accept others of their kind in the same tank, but it might take time and patience.
You'll also want to avoid putting two males in the same tank. One will always try to establish dominance over the other, and this can result in all kinds of stress and injury.
17. Could an emerald tree boa kill you?
To the best of our knowledge, no one has ever been killed by an emerald tree boa. They're too small to do any serious damage.
They can snap at you, but there's no evidence to suggest that they can kill you.
18. How long do emerald tree boas live?
Emerald tree boas can live for 15 – 20 years in captivity.
Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but it's probably a lot less considering the danger of their lives.
19. What eats an emerald tree boa?
Emerald tree boas are most vulnerable when they're young. They aren't born in eggs, so they don't have to worry about the usual lizards and insects that consume snake eggs.
But young hatchlings are defenseless against all kinds of rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
It's a little harder to kill an adult emerald, but it isn't impossible, especially for large birds of prey. Harpies and crested eagles are two of the recognized predators of emerald tree boas.
They have the aerial range to snatch the tree-dwelling snakes, and they possess both the size and strength to carry them away.
20. Is the emerald tree boa endangered?
Here's some good news for snake lovers! The emerald tree boa isn't endangered. In fact, they're classified as a species of “least concern” by conservation groups that monitor extinction threats.
Both breeds are thriving in their native habitats, and they're bred and sold as pets worldwide.
21. How do emerald tree boas protect themselves?
Despite the aggression that they display when hunting, emerald tree boas would rather hide than fight. Most of their behavior is defensive rather than offensive.
For example, emerald tree boas have a natural camouflage in the trees. Their green scales blend into the foliage, and their white spots can look like fungi that are commonly found in the humid jungles of the Amazon.
A swift-moving eagle might completely miss a silent, motionless snake hidden in a tree canopy.
Another defensive tactic of the emerald tree boa is to avoid leaving their scent everywhere. They have slow metabolisms, so they don't need to eat and poop every day. They can wait until it's raining so that their scents will be quickly washed away.
22. What do emerald tree boas eat?
Like many snake species, emerald tree boas are carnivores. They like rodents, lizards, bats, possums, frogs, finger monkeys and anything else that they can swallow whole.
They tend to go for smaller prey rather than gorging themselves on gigantic creatures that would leave them swollen and unable to move through the trees.
Biologists used to assume that emerald tree boas ate birds, too, but this was disproved when they actually examined the stomach contents of dead emeralds. The biologists didn't find any bird remains in their gastrointestinal tracks.
This just goes to show that you shouldn't make assumptions about an animal's lifestyle. You might expect a tree-dwelling snake to eat birds, but in the case of emerald tree boas, they defy expectations.
23. How many babies do emerald tree boas have?
Female emerald tree boas usually have around 5 – 12 babies. Their clutches can reach as high as 20, but this isn't common.
Something worth noting is that we aren't sure how many babies are actually gestated by emerald tree boas. When they give birth, they push out both living young and the oozing remains of unfertilized eggs and embryos. They might carry a lot more babies than what actually survives in the end.
24. What is the gestation period of an emerald tree boa? “Pregnancy” length
Emerald tree boas are pregnant for roughly 6 – 7 months.
25. Do emerald tree boas give birth to live young?
One of the most surprising things about emerald tree boa reproduction is that females are ovoviviparous.
This means that they form, gestate and hatch eggs, but they do it inside of their bodies. When they give birth, it's to live young.
26. Do emerald tree boas lay eggs?
Technically speaking, emerald tree boas don't “lay” eggs. They create them, but the eggs hatch inside of their bodies before birth.
There's no nesting or safeguarding a clutch. In fact, emerald tree boas don't care for their young at all: babies are independent from the moment that they're born.
Mom and dad don't have anything to do with them, so they learn how to survive on their own.
27. What do baby emerald tree boas look like?
Young hatchlings lack the bright green colors of their parents. They're born in various shades of red, orange and brown, and they lighten up over time. Only their white markings stay the same.
28. Are emerald tree boas loud?
No. As quiet, stealthy creatures that live their lives hidden in tree canopies, emerald tree boas aren't very loud. In fact, they're mostly silent.
Hissing is a sign that something has startled them or triggered their more aggressive instincts.
29. Do emerald tree boas carry disease?
Emerald tree boas can carry a parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis, an illness that affects humans.
Its symptoms include nausea, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. It's not fatal, but it's unpleasant, and it can wreak havoc on the human immune system and make people susceptible to further illnesses.
As for snake-on-snake parasites, emerald tree boas have those as well. Most alarming is the fact that these things can be passed as hereditary issues from mothers to children, so if your emerald mom has a parasite, her babies might be born with the same parasite.
This is one of the reasons why it's important to stay in contact with a snake specialist if you plan on owning emerald tree boas. Especially if you're importing them from overseas, you should get them checked out and given a clean bill of health before you take them home.
30. Are emerald tree boas poisonous or venomous?
A bite from an emerald tree boa won't top your list of favorite experiences, but it won't poison you. Emerald tree boas don't have any venom glands connected to their fangs.
31. Where does the emerald tree boa live?
There are two species of emerald tree boa, and they live in different regions of South America:
- Corallus caninus lives in the Guiana Shield. This includes Guyana, French Guiana, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Suriname.
- Corallus batesii lives in the Amazon River basin. This includes Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador.
32. Where do emerald tree boas sleep?
As arboreal creatures, emerald tree boas spend most of their time in trees. They eat, hunt, mate, move, bask and even sleep underneath their camouflaged canopies.
When it's time to catch some shut-eye, they simply wrap themselves around a branch and lay their head down in the middle of their coils.
33. What layer of the rainforest does the emerald tree boa live in?
Emerald tree boas don't seem to be picky about their elevation levels. Some of them live close to the ground so that they can snatch up scurrying little mice; others occupy high jungle canopies and live off squirrels and monkeys.
The highest emerald tree boas were recorded at more than 3,000 feet!
34. Do emerald tree boas need heat to survive?
Yes. Emerald tree boas are cold-blooded animals, so their bodies don't generate their own heat.
They need external sources of warmth for thermoregulation.
In the wild, this might mean stretching out on a sun-dappled branch to catch some rays; in captivity, they might seek out a heat lamp or warming rock.
35. What is the habitat of the emerald tree boa?
Trees are a necessity, of course, but what other elements make up the emerald tree boa's habitat?
The main thing to know is that emerald tree boas are jungle creatures. They like hot, humid and rainy environments, so they're never found in a desert. In fact, they're never found in a region without a good 50 – 60 inches of rainfall per year.
An interesting contradiction in emerald tree boas is that they aren't particularly attached to water. They live around the Amazon River, but they don't swim.
They prefer areas with high rainfall, but they don't descend from the trees to drink or bathe. When they need to hydrate, they get their water from trees, leaves and even their own scales.
In this way, they aren't dependent on proximity to a nearby lake or stream to survive.
36. Where can I see the emerald tree boa?
If you've fallen in love with these vivid, vivacious snakes, you should be happy to learn that you can find them just about everywhere.
They're raised in zoos; they're bred in wildlife sanctuaries; they're sold as pets. You can even see them in the wild if you're traveling to South America.
It's estimated that there's an emerald tree boa for every mile of the Amazon, so you shouldn't have any problem stumbling across them!
Emerald Tree Boas as Pets
37. Is it legal to own an emerald tree boa as a pet?
You'll need to check with local authorities to figure out if your emerald tree boa is breaking any laws. The rules can vary depending on your location.
For example, while the buying and selling of boa constrictors hasn't been banned in the United States on a federal level, places like New York City don't allow them.
38. Do emerald tree boas make good pets?
That depends. What kind of pet are you looking for?
If you're looking for a sweet, affectionate snake, emerald tree boas aren't for you. They're solitary creatures that would be perfectly content to never interact with the pink-skinned creature who feeds them and cleans their tank.
Some of them might even have aggression problems, especially if they were captured in the wild rather bred in captivity.
Emerald tree boas aren't good for busy pet owners, either. They require daily care in the form of humidity control, temperature regulation and ventilation monitoring. You'll need the time and energy to deal with their many needs.
If you know what you're getting into, however, emerald tree boas can make great pets. They're beautiful and exotic animals that are fascinating to watch, and they'll live for a good long time as your scaled companions.
39. How much does an emerald tree boa normally cost?
Emerald tree boas aren't cheap. They can range anywhere from $300 – $600 depending on things like age, gender, fertility, and country of origin.
Importing them is more expensive than buying them from a local pet shop.
40. What should I feed my emerald tree boa?
Adults usually live on mice. Juveniles might prefer frogs or reptiles, but they'll transition to mice as they get older.
Something important to know about emerald tree boas is that they only need to be fed a single mouse every 2 – 3 weeks. Their metabolisms are so slow that they'll regurgitate anything more.
They won't even defecate after every meal; it will take them two or three meals to feel that urge.
41. Do I need to provide water for my emerald tree boa?
An odd thing about emerald tree boas is that they don't usually drink water out of a bowl. Instead, they'll lick it off the walls of their enclosure or their own scales and tails.
If you're maintaining the right humidity levels in your tank, these droplets should form naturally without any extra effort on your part, so watering your snake is unnecessary.
42. How long will an emerald tree boa live in captivity?
Emerald tree boas can live for 15 – 20 years in captivity.
43. Do I need a heat lamp for my emerald tree boa?
Emerald tree boas like it hot. The daytime temperature of their tank should be around 80°F – 85°F, and the nighttime temperature shouldn't dip below 70°F.
Another important tip for raising emerald tree boas: they need humidity. Their natural habitat is a hot, moist jungle in South America, so your goal should be replicating that environment as much as possible.
Misting your tank is an absolute necessity. Ideally, you'll buy some kind of misting pad or misting system that slowly releases moisture into the tank throughout the day.
As for heat lamps, they aren't necessary if you're meeting these other heat and humidity requirements, but they can be a nice treat for your emerald.
44. What kind of enclosure should I buy for my emerald tree boa?
Emerald tree boas can be quite picky about their enclosures. Here are a few tips for getting their seal of approval:
- Avoid glass walls. Remember that emerald tree boas spend most of their time camouflaged, so they won't like a transparent tank. Being constantly visible will stress them out. A single glass wall on the front of the enclosure is okay, but the rest should be shaded.
- Provide plenty of branches and perches. Emerald tree boas are tree-dwelling creatures. They won't know what to do with themselves if they don't have anything to dangle from or wrap around. These preferences are hard-wired into everything from their sleeping habits to their mating rituals.
- Buy something that can be customized. You might need to make some changes to the humidity or ventilation levels of your tank to suit the needs of your particular emerald. It's best if you buy a tank that can be customized without damaging any internal fans, lights, lamps or wires.
45. How much room does an emerald tree boa need?
You'll want to invest in a sizeable enclosure for your emerald tree boa. The goal is to mimic the conditions of a rainforest, so they'll need space to move around like they're really living in a tree canopy.
Your aquarium should be 20 – 30 gallons at the bare minimum.
46. Can you hold an emerald tree boa?
It depends on the temperament of your boa. Some of them will tolerate human contact; others will force you to bring out the snake hook.
Generally speaking, however, emerald tree boas aren't known as cuddly creatures. They aren't the type of snake that you can drape around your shoulders to the amazement of onlookers. They're happiest when you leave them alone, so they're a hands-off pet.
Jewels of South America
Did you learn anything from these emerald tree boa facts? They're fascinating creatures even beyond their bright, eye-catching colors, so don't judge a book by its cover or a snake by its scales!
Did we miss anything? Do you still have questions? Let us know in the comments!
Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing. She graduated high school at sixteen and started her own business, Everywhere Wild Media. And she runs Everywhere Wild and JustBirding. She also guest blogs on Storyteller.Travel
She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.